Lantern DIY: Let there be light!

DIY lanterns

I joined a Pinterest a little more than a month ago and have been slowly falling in love with it ever since. Does anyone else use the site? Seriously, it’s crazy nifty and can easily fill hours and hours of your time with great ideas and tons o’ eye candy. I’ve started a few boards, and though they’re by no means filled or finished, I’m acquiring quite the collection of inspiration at lighting-fast speed. Love, love, lovity, love.

At the same time I was embarking on my newfound love of Pinterest, I was also on the hunt for an outdoorsy DIY project to make for the June/July issue of Columbia Home. I quickly landed on two adorable yarn-ball-ish lantern projects (check them out here and here) and decided to combine the two techniques for my own version of lantern loveliness. And oh happy day, this is by far my favorite DIY project to date. Fair warning, it’s a super duper messy project — like you’re-hands-will-be-covered-in-sticky-goo-and-your-work-space-will-be-speckled-with-gluey-drops-of-glueness kind of messy — but the mess and cleanup are well worth the effort. Just invest in a cheapo plastic drop cloth and a pair of plastic gloves, and it’s not too big of deal.

Here’s what you need for the lanterns:
• 5 to 6 balloons, blown up to whatever size ball or lantern you want to make
• large plastic drop cloth
• scissors
• twine, hemp or cotton yarn (I used hemp because it seemed a little tougher for outdoor use, but next time I might go the white yarn route for a lighter, brighter look.)
• 4 ounces basic white glue
• ½ cup cornstarch
• 1/4 cup warm water
• petroleum jelly
• clear, fast-drying spray paint
• lantern lights or white twinkle lights (I like the twinkle lights because they have that twinkly, magical look, but lantern lights would be nifty, too.)

Blow up balloons to desired size. Keep in mind that the size of your balloon dictates the size of your lanterns balls (it’s also helpful not to blow up the balloons all the way; a bit less air makes for rounder balloons).

If you plan to place a lantern light in your finished lanterns, draw a circle on the top of each balloon large enough to accommodate the lighting fixture. If you’re not planning to light the lanterns or you’d prefer to stuff them with a simple strand of twinkle lights, you can skip this step (just make sure you leave enough space while wrapping to stuff the twinkle lights inside).

Lay a plastic drop cloth over your work surface, and set up a place where balloons can be suspended from the air to dry. I draped the plastic drop cloth across the bathroom floor and into the bathtub so I could hang the balls on the shower bar.

Mix glue, cornstarch and warm water in a large container until all lumps are gone, then cover each balloon in petroleum jelly (using rubber gloves for this cuts down on the mess).

Feed the twine through the glue mixture until it is coated, then start draping it around the balloon.

Wrap the ball vertically to a comfortable tightness, then horizontally. Once ball is wrapped to your liking, use a piece of twine to suspend it from the shower bar (or drying space of your choosing).

Allow balls to dry for 24 hours. Then, pop the balloons. It’s like magic! Spray the balls with clear, fast-drying spray paint. Once they’re dry, insert the lights, and you’re ready to party like it’s 1999! Woot!

And that’s really all there is to it! Totally adorable and totally easy (albeit totally messy as well).

Have you done any DIYing lately? Any new projects on the agenda? And have any of you fallen if love with Pinterest, too? Let’s hear it!



  1. kelly says

    I love these! Got to your site thru CraftyNest & like the “thicker” look of your hemp in relatoin to the twine or string. Katrina, do you happen to recall which weight of hemp you used? I found several at the craft store. Thanks! Kelly

    • says

      Thanks, Kelly! I’m a fan of the thicker hemp, too. It gives the lanterns a sort of rustic look, which is great for outside. I can’t remember the weight of hemp I used, but it was the thicker of the two options available at Walmart. I think any weight would work, really. This hemp was almost as big around as a pencil. Hope that helps!

  2. Suz says

    I love these – and with a little bit of spray paint, you could use the idea to spruce up any holiday or special occasion. Thanks so much for the great idea!

  3. says

    These are so cool! I know someone who used these for a wedding and they looked great! I’ll be sure to try this soon. I really admire your creations, I would love it if you could look at some of mine on my blog:
    I just started blogging a few days ago and I’m trying to get it out there. Thank you!

    • says

      Thanks so much for reading! There’s no shortage of fun DIY projects to try, that’s for sure. :)

      Judging by your blog, it looks like you have lots of clever ideas up your sleeve. I love the black cat you made. He reminds me of the cat from Coraline. Perfect for Halloween!

      Best of luck on your new blogging endeavor! I’ll be sure to check back in.

  4. Lisa says

    Well I have everything and getting ready to start my light project. Sounds simple enuff. Courious to see how the twine adheres to the slick (vaseline) balloons !

  5. says

    I’ve loved Pinterest since my girls got me going on it! I can’t wait to try your lights for all the outdoor parties we’re hoping to host this summer!

  6. Karen says

    How do they hold up in the weather? I camp and thought these would be awesome hanging from the trees or deck but did not know if they lose their shape from the rain.

    • says

      I take mine inside when it’s rainy to keep them looking nice, so I’m not sure how they’d hold up in that kind of weather. Maybe an extra layer of a polyurethane spray would help them fare better though. The sealing is the biggest issue I suppose. Do let me know if you try it how they work out! :)

    • says

      That might work, especially if you do a really solid coat of the stuff. Actually, it would be a much less messy way to do the project, so please let me know if you try it! Great idea!

    • Katrina says

      So glad you enjoyed it! I hope you have fun doing the project! And even more fun enjoying your awesome new lanterns! 😉


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